Daily 11-minute walk can cut early death risk: Cambridge University study
Just 11 minutes, or 75 minutes a week, of moderate-intensity physical activity such as a brisk walk would be sufficient to lower the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke and a number of cancers, a new University of Cambridge led research has found.
In a study published on Tuesday in the ‘British Journal of Sports Medicine’, researchers conclude that one in 10 early deaths could be prevented if everyone managed at least half the recommended level of physical activity by the UK's National Health Service (NHS).
Physical activity, particularly when it is moderate-intensity, is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and the NHS recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.
“If you are someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our findings should be good news,” said Dr Soren Brage from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge.
“Doing some physical activity is better than doing none. This is also a good starting position – if you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount,” he said.
Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, are the leading cause of death globally, responsible for 17.9 million deaths per year in 2019, while cancers were responsible for 9.6 million deaths in 2017. Seventy-five minutes per week of moderate activity was found to be enough to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17 per cent and cancer by 7 per cent.
For some specific cancers, the reduction in risk was greater – head and neck, myeloid leukaemia, myeloma, and gastric cardia cancers were between 14-26 per cent lower risk. For other cancers, such as lung, liver, endometrial, colon, and breast cancer, a 3-11 per cent lower risk was observed.
Professor James Woodcock from the MRC Epidemiology Unit said: “We know that physical activity, such as walking or cycling, is good for you, especially if you feel it raises your heart rate.
“But what we’ve found is there are substantial benefits to heart health and reducing your risk of cancer even if you can only manage 10 minutes every day.” Moderate-intensity physical activity is that which raises the heart rate and makes us breathe faster but still able to speak during the activity, such as brisk walking, dancing, riding a bike, playing tennis and hiking.
To explore the amount of physical activity necessary to have a beneficial impact on several chronic diseases and premature death, researchers from the MRC Epidemiology Unit at Cambridge University carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis, pooling and analysing cohort data from all of the published evidence. This approach allowed them to bring together studies that on their own did not provide sufficient evidence and sometimes disagreed with each other to provide more robust conclusions, the university said.
In total, they looked at results reported in 196 peer-reviewed articles, covering more than 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts, to produce the largest analysis to date of the association between physical activity levels and risk of heart disease, cancer, and early death.
The researchers calculated that if everyone in the studies had done the equivalent of at least 150 min per week of moderate-intensity activity, around one in six (16 per cent) early deaths would be prevented. One in nine (11 per cent) cases of cardiovascular disease and one in 20 (5 per cent) cases of cancer would be prevented. However, even if everyone managed at least 75 min per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, around 10 per cent early deaths would be prevented. One in twenty (5 per cent) cases of cardiovascular disease and nearly one in thirty (3 per cent) cases of cancer would be prevented.
Dr Leandro Garcia from Queen’s University Belfast said: “Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of exercise, such as sports or running. Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed.
"For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grand kids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active.” The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the European Research Council.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.